Thursday, 15 May 2008

13/05/2008 - 04/06/2008 Nashville, Orlando

13/05/2008- Tonight we went to the Grand Old Opry. What began as a simple radio broadcast in 1925, is today a live-entertainment phenomenon. Dedicated to honoring country music’s rich history and dynamic present. It’s been called the “home of American music”and “country’s most famous stage.”The entertainment line-up was Jim Ed Brown, T. Graham Brown, George Hamilton IV, Del McCoury Band, Bill Anderson, Eric Church, The Isaacs and Keith Urban. It was a really good night and it was great to see Keith Urban perform - a bit of a bonus that he was singing. Each performer sings for about 15 minutes, the whole show goes for two hours and is broadcast via Live TV and Radio.

15/05/2008 - We've hired a car today to have a look around Tennessee, as the public transport system from our RV park is non existent. One of the things that we have noticed about most of the cities that we have visited (excluding Washington DC) is that their public transport system is not all that great. In the evening there was a free Blue Grass Band concert - I've decided that Blue Grass music is definitely not for me, to me it sounds as if they are singing through their noses.

Okay I've been very slack and I've not updated the Blog for quite awhile, so here goes...

19/05/2008 - 24/05 2008 - We decided to have a bit of a break on the beach, so we headed to a town called Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Well this park was rather large to say the least, it had over 3700 sites - which included anything from a tent to large holiday homes. We were lucky enough to land a site that was only one row away from the beach - score. However we were also 1.5 k's from the front gate. We had a really relaxing week with a bit of swimming (mind you the beaches aren't quite like the beautiful beaches and surf we have at home) eating, drinking and just relaxing. Dave is just loving this Cable TV, it has a Golf Channel, so he can lay in the bedroom with his air conditioning going and just watch TV in peace and quiet if he wants. Whilst I'm happy to lay outside and read a book - we are really enjoying this retirement thing, even though I know that Dave misses his Saturday golf and I miss my social life and we both miss our families, we aren't too stressed and we are reallying enjoying ourselves.

As this park is so huge many of the guests either own or rent a Golf Cart to get them around the park. Now these Golf Carts aren't like we are used to seeing out on the Golf courses. There are carts that are jacked up, have mag wheels, have really fancy stereo systems etc. etc. etc. This park had several beautiful lakes where people went fishing. The turtles even sun bake around the many fountains. The swans had their little signets swimming with them in one of the ponds, it really was a great place to stay. There was restaurants, pools, recreation rooms, shops everything that one could want. We would of liked to stay a bit longer, but it was Black Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, so the resort was completely booked up. On our last day in Myrtle Beach our Registration Plates etc. finally showed up - so we are now driving around the States legally.

25/05/2008 - 26/05/2008 - From Myrtle Beach we headed to the Ocala National Forest, Florida where we were hoping to swim in the Salt Springs which are rumored to have curative powers and according to the Lonely Plant Book (my Bible) the swimming is sublime. Well unfortunately, for us they were doing some renovations etc on the Salt Springs so these were closed. However, we did manage to get to the Silver Springs to have a great (if not cold or as Dave refers to it refreshing) swim. The water was crystal clear and just beautiful.

26/05/2008 - 30/05/2008 - After we left the Springs we decided it was time for some fun and action - so we set out for Florida - Walt Disney World. We made a decision to stay at Walt Disney's Fort Wilderness Camping Grounds - a little bit more expensive but only a ferry ride or bus ride to all 4 of the sites we wanted to visit i.e. Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

I had 3 fantastic days at Disney World (acting like a child again), I even think Dave enjoyed himself though he did mutter after only one day, that he had had enough of Disney World, okay to be fair we had been at the park at opening at 9:00am and we were still going at around 11:30pm. The next couple of days were much the same we tried to pack as much in as we could (okay I dragged Dave around most of it - but I know secretly that deep down Dave had a great time and that he enjoyed the rides as much as I did.

The Safari at Animal Kingdom was magnificent. To see the Lions, Giraffes, Rhinoceroses, Elephants, Hippos etc wandering around whilst travelling in a Jeep with no protection between us and the animals, it really did feel like you were in Africa.
The Fort Wilderness RV park was a great place to stay, the sites are very well maintained, there is a sophisticated bus system that take you from one end of the park to the other, we've got good use out of our bikes. here The park also has a couple of swimming pools, planned activities, speed boats, bass fishing, restaurants, horse riding and the list goes on. We were talking to one couple and their children and they have come to the park just to utilise all the facilities of the park and don't even go to Disney World.

30/05/2008 - 02/06/2008 -We still had one day left on our Disney passes to use -but it was time to go and see the Space Shuttle Launch, something that we were both looking forward to and one of the only things that we had actually planned. To witness this event was just spectacular and something that neither of us will ever forget. We were about 6 miles from the actual launch site (the closest you can get is about 3.9 miles and that's for the press, family and the command centre). From where we were standing (on the river front of the RV park) the sound of the launch was about 10 seconds behind the actual lift off. Everyone seemed to hold their breath for a few minutes and after it looked like everything was going well the crowd started to cheer and applauded - I ended up with goose bumps. We were told before the launch that - You see it, you hear it and then you feel it. It made the F1-11's at river fire look like mosquito squadren.
Whilst staying in this campground we found out what it must be like to go camping with the Eames's etc. There was this one tent that had air-conditioning, we just couldn't believe it. It was a box window type that had a stand build under it so it stood up on it's own accord and was cut into the fly screen of the tent. We have seen campers with their tents full of fridges, microwaves, toasters and of course being in the South their deep fryer's but this was the first one with an air-conditioned tent.

On Monday we went out to the Kennedy Space Centre to find out more about the Centre and to see the actual site where the Shuttle took off from. We really enjoyed learning more about the launch, the Space Centre and NASA - Dave was in his element and wanted to know how everything worked. We actually got to touch a piece of rock from both the moon and mars - whilst touching the actual rock wasn't that exciting - it just felt like a piece of slate, it was great to know that we had touched something that had come from so far away. Whilst at the Kennedy Space Centre we also realised why there was no one swimming in some of the beautiful lakes - Alligators were everywhere.

03/06/2008 - On our way back to Disney World we spent the night in an RV park in Kissimmee. When we arrived at the park we thought we had landed in the middle of Hicksville (it was close to Dusk). When I woke up and went for my walk (yep Dave was still in bed) I realised what a lovely little park this one was. I was walking along admiring all the wildlife I had come into contact with, horses, geese, turtles, cats, dogs, donkeys etc. when I came to one of the canals and yep there was this alligator only about 5 feet away from a fisherman. The alligator was just laying in the water watching the fisherman, who said that he is always there and if he gets too close he just hits him with his fishing rod to move him back a bit arghhhhh.

04/06/2008 - I got Dave out of bed early so we could get going early. The Animal Kingdom opens at 8:00am on Wednesday (for Resort guest only). I have our day planned we really only want to do a few rides. So we caught the Bus to Animal Kingdom - we went and did the Safari Ride again, from here we caught the bus to the Hollywood Studios to do the Rock N Roll Roller Coaster, this is one of the best Roller Coasters either of us have been on, the speed in which you start and go into the first loop is phenomenal, from here we caught the bus to the Transportation Centre and caught the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom were we did the Flume Ride, this flume ride is the steepest that I have every done and we were home by 2:00pm - Dave was very happy and has gone to his Cave. Dave is just like him Mum he can go to bed really late but getting out of bed early is not the easiest thing for him to do - I normally give him an hour or so before I even try to engage in a conversation. I'm more the other way around when I'm tired and it's after 10:30pm don't try and have an intelligent conversation with me...

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

30/04/2008 - 12/05/2008 - St Louis(MO) / Memphis(TN)

30/04/2008 - We booked Stubbie in for a few minor warranty fixes in the city of Terre Haute. Whilst Stubbie was in getting fixed we thought that we would go the movies - wrong they don't have the first session until 4:30pm. We needed to spend an extra night here as they still had some minor fixes to complete. Everything was fixed except the fact that the TV and Radio turn on whenever they want - seems Thomas (the name the Eames's gave our friendly ghost at Canyon House) has followed us here.

04/05/02008 - Today we headed for the Gateway Arch one of the icons of St Louis. The Arch is an interesting bit of engineering. A steel arch that stands 630' high with a trolley arrangement built into the centre of it that takes you to the viewing platform at the top - in what they call Trams. The trolley was basically a set of small drums which people were stuff into and each drum is attached to the pulley system. (It was like stuffing 5 people into a 88 gallon drum.) After the Arch and some lunch we went for the obligatory ride down the Mississippi which was bit like going up the dirty Brisbane river - now we know why they call it the Big Muddy.

05/05/2008 - We woke up this morning and decided to catch the local buses to the zoo. Well that was an experience, even though Dave is know getting used to travelling in public transport - I don't think he has done this since his Uni days. We were the only non African-Americans on the bus and on the streets. We had asked the driver were we needed to get off to catch the next bus and she told us that she would announce it for us. Well she did announce the stop for us - so off we got and headed to catch what we thought was the connecting bus (wrong) - unfortunately for us we were headed to a bus going in the wrong direction. The bus driver saw that we were headed in the wrong direction so she stopped the bus and yelled out to us were to go to catch the correct bus - we were very grateful. The zoo had Australia's national emblem. One emu plus a few Kangaroos. The zoo was very large with some animals that we had both never seen, it was well set out and we had a great morning just wandering around and it was free.

After the Zoo we headed off to find Blueberry Hill. Dave managed to find his thrill at Blueberry Hill. (Made famous because of the burgers.) An interesting bit of information at the the cafe was that Abbott and Costello did not make it big until they did the skit on "Who's on first." (If you have never head this then download it off the net - it is a priceless piece of history.) Blueberry Hill is a large Pub/Restaurant were apparently Chuck Berry still visits about once a month to sing.

Dave is really taking to retirement - After we left St Louis Dave said that we should try and slow down a bit - that we did St Louis a bit too quick.

06/05/2008 - We have certainly been improving with the packing up to hit the road. Today we were so proud all cupboards inside and outside had been shut properly, so took off with smiles on our face only to notice that after travelling a few hundred metres that we had left the front door open. We went to visit the Meramac Caves just outside St Louis. These Caves are the caves that the infamous Jesse James and his brother Frank used as one of their hideouts. This was something that Dave and I wanted to see because it was so close, but we didn't expect to enjoy it as much as what we did. Some of the formations inside the caves were just spectacular - however I still get confused on which is a Stalagmite and a Stalactite, I think I've got it now though Stalactite has a 'c' in it - so it comes down from the 'c'eiling.

08/05/2008 - We arrived at our RV park "Graceland/Memphis RV Park" to find out that we are virtually across the road to Graceland - another great bonus.

The King is not dead he is everywhere.... In Memphis they have one radio station that is dedicated to Elvis, they only play Elvis music all day.

09/05/2008 - So today we headed over to Graceland. We had a truly wonderful time - it was amazing to see just how 'The King' lived - we were disappointed that you didn't get to go upstairs to see the upstairs living areas. (They are always off limits to the public.) After we finished the tour of the house we went to what is called the Meditation Gardens, this is where Elvis, his mother and father, his paternal Grandmother (who outlived them all), and a memorial to his twin brother Jesse (who was still born) are all buried. Well it was amazing to see the emotions of so many people come out here -I had a lump in my throat standing in front of Elvis's grave and reading the inscription. Across from Graceland they have several museums of Elvis memorabilia (including two of his airplanes). We spent several hours watching old footage and reading the history of the era.
10/05/2008 - As we still have a few things to see in Memphis we decided to have a Rest Day. So I went up the office to check in for another two nights. Well the office advised me that there are strong storm warnings about with the possibility of Tornadoes, she then went into detail about the Alarm that goes off for the Tornadoes and where we are to go. No wonder everyone else is leaving the park, but hey not Dave and I we've just booked in for two more nights. So needless to say we are keeping an eye on the weather. We know understand while most other travellers are heading North not South. Nothing like travelling in what they call Tornado Alley.

So tonight we headed over to the Rock 'n Roll Cafe for a drink and some entertainment (an Elvis Impersonator). Well I was disappointed when we walked in and sat down I asked for a glass of chardonnay - guess what no wine only beer and Smirnoff Ice - Watermelon - so I did what anyone would do and ordered the Smirnoff, whilst Dave sat there and ordered Bud's - not happy Jan, it was just sooo sweet. The passion that the Americans have for their country is just unbelievable. The show stopped for a while as the impersonator welcomed back a soldier from his service in Iraq so of course everyone in the crowd gets up for a standing ovation that lasts for about 5 minutes, he then goes on to thank all the Vets etc which the crowd then applaud and cheer loudly. At the end of the show when he is singing his last song the American Flag drops down in the background - well the crowd erupts with another standing ovation. The singer did some really good impersonations and then some not so good impersonations, sometimes he looked more like Neil Diamond, but his enthusiasm and passion for Elvis Presley was unbelievable. In the crowd was the wife of Elvis's cousin who had lived in Gracelands for 4 years. We had an enjoyable night (whilst keeping an eye on the weather) and met a lovely Irish Couple who are travelling in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary.

11/05/2008 - Well as you can probably tell we survived the night, sadly Tornadoes and severe storms did hit around us and about 21 people were killed. We got lots of wind, lightening and rain but no damage.

We started today's travels with a stop at Sun Studios the place were Elvis Presley recorded his first song. Elvis lied to get into the Studio to record his first single. He told the secretary Marion Keisker that it was his mother's birthday and that he really wanted to give her a record of him singing for her birthday - it wasn't even close to his mother's birthday. We listened to his first recording and it was very ordinary. Needless to say this didn't start his career it was another year until his career got started.

Sun Studios was also where other greats like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and that era also recorded most of there records. We were able to stand in the actual recording studio that all these great artists made allot of the greatest hits. (The recording studio has not changed except for the electronics and it still functions as a live recording studio today.)
After Sun Studios we headed into Beale St (the place known for the Blues/ Jazz clubs). We went into BB Kings where we listened to a Blues Band play for about an hour, the lead guitarist was 87 and he was about to play for 5 hours. We have been use to seeing Australian Yellow Tail wine at nearly all the clubs / restaurants we have been to, but at BB Kings they have Alice White Wines (more Australian wine) - have a look at the photo.

After BB Kings we went to the Civil Rights Museum and visited the motel site that Martin Luther King was assassinated. (The Civil rights era was a very sad era in US history.)

12/05/2008 - Today we packed up and headed off to Nashville. Whilst we were glad to have stopped at Memphis and to see the sights, Memphis is not a city that we would go back to. Memphis seems really run down and this is one place that we didn't feel very safe.

For any of those competitive people out there, it's been two weeks since Dave and I started our bet on weight loss. The first week it was close but I managed to get Dave by .23%. Week two was a bit easier. I decided that last week was too close - so when I went and did the grocery shopping, I bought a few treats for Dave - he has no will power when it comes to chocolate. So on Friday when we weighed in I was a clear 1.8% in front. Now I'm not saying that we are losing much weight, but a least we are heading in the right direction - so it's 2 Nil.... and Dave is not a good loser. (Ross that means there has been no Apple Crisp).